The government yesterday had a surprise change of heart, declaring an initiative to put the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to a national referendum.
After a meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials and lawmakers yesterday, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said: “The ultimate decision on this issue of major concern to people’s lives and security, and to the nation’s economic development in the future, shall be decided through a referendum.”
The decision was reached at a meeting presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) at the Presidential Office on Sunday night and attended by Jiang, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝), party officials and several KMT lawmakers.
Jiang said that the government maintains its position that construction of the plant should be completed, but it will not operate commercially unless it is safe.
However, “we would like to face public scrutiny through a referendum,” he said.
According to the plan, a referendum on halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will be initiated by the KMT caucus tabling a motion next month in the legislature, KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said.
Lai said the plebiscite could be held in August as the Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that a referendum must be held no sooner than one month and no later than six months after its proposal.
If the completion of the plant failed to win approval, there was the risk of huge compensation payouts for breach of contract, higher electricity costs, power shortages and even an adverse effect on economic growth, Jiang said.
Nevertheless, “we would accept the ultimate decision made by the people,” he said.
Since 1992, when the first budget for the plant cleared the legislature, NT$264 billion (US$8.9 billion) has been poured into the project, with NT$19.7 billion requested in this legislative session, which begins today, and a budget of NT$40 billion needed to complete its construction.
State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), the builder and operator, originally planned to apply to the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) to load fuel rods in the plant’s first reactor in February next year and to begin commercial operations in October 2015.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant incident of 2011 in Japan has re-energized Taiwan’s anti-nuclear movement, with the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant the focus of attention.
A number of flaws in the design and construction of the plant have been identified. Adding to safety concerns over nuclear power plants in Taiwan is the fact that they are situated in geologically unstable earthquake-prone areas.
Since the Referendum Act was enacted in 2004, there have been six national referendums, all held on the same day as national elections — March 30, 2004, a presidential election; January 12, 2008, a legislative election; and March 22, 2008, a presidential election.
There were two referendums on each date, but none of the proposals in the referendums passed due to what is perceived to be the high threshold for them to be successful.
That referendum act requires more than half of eligible voters to cast ballots for a poll to be valid.
Elizabeth Sun (孫又文), a spokeswoman for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said that while it did not take sides on the matter, the government should ensure that industry would be able to enjoy stable and adequate power supplies.
TSMC would not comment on whether the issue should be resolved via referendum.
Contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) said that the most important issue was ensuring sufficient power supplies.
Additional reporting by Lisa Wang
NO FREE LUNCH: Taiwanese joining the trips to China met TAO and United Front Work officials who urged them to vote for candidates who support closer ties with Beijing The Ciaotou Prosecutors’ Office in Kaohsiung yesterday released two suspects on bail who have been accused of recruiting Taiwanese to join tours to China funded by Beijing and in which they were urged to vote for pan-blue candidates in January’s presidential and legislative elections. The pan-blue camp generally refers to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the People First Party, the New Party and the Young China Party, which support closer relations with China. Prosecutors said that a man, surnamed Cheng (鄭), and a woman, surnamed Yeh (葉), who are members of the China Pan-Blue Association, recruited Taiwanese tourists to join tours arranged
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday slammed a proposal by New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, to permit a “significant number” of Chinese students to study and work in Taiwan, saying it would be detrimental to young Taiwanese. At an event on Monday hosted by nine major industrial and business groups, Hou said that if elected, he would reinitiate cross-strait dialogue on the premise that Taiwan’s dignity would not be compromised and that the talks would be held in good faith. The talks would include lifting a ban on Chinese tour groups and
PEACE AND STABILITY: ‘Taiwan can be of tremendous value’ in building resilient supply chains, President Tsai Ing-wen said, as she encouraged closer ties with foreign businesses A Chinese invasion of Taiwan is unlikely for the time being due to the internal challenges and international pressure that China is facing, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told the New York Times in an interview shown on Wednesday. “My thought is that perhaps this is not a time for them [China] to consider a major invasion of Taiwan,” Tsai said in a prerecorded interview for the DealBook Summit held by the newspaper on Wednesday. Beijing’s leadership is presently “overwhelmed by its internal challenges” on economic, financial and political grounds, while the international community “has made it loud and clear that war is
COUNTER DISINFORMATION: More engagement and media literacy are needed to push back against misinformation and claims that the US is an unreliable partner, the AIT director said The US is “confident” that Taiwan does not face an imminent threat of a Chinese invasion, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Sandra Oudkirk told a US public radio show, adding that Washington remains committed to defensively arming the nation. She made the comment during an interview on All Things Considered, broadcast on Friday on US-based National Public Radio. “There is an important distinction between making plans and training troops, and getting ready to do something,” Oudkirk said, on whether she thinks Beijing plans to attack Taiwan in the near future. Chinese officials have told Washington that “their preference is for peaceful reunification,